Colin Trevorrow’s franchise-restarter Jurassic World shocked everyone by making the most money at the box office of any movie in the history of the world. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it did remarkably well considering critics tore it a new one and no Jurassic Park fan worth their salt would give it a passing grade.
I got along with the film just fine, but to suggest I’ve been pushed, even momentarily, to watch it again in the intervening years would be a lie. Approaching its unnecessary sequel, the ludicrously titled Fallen Kingdom, the initial trailers spelled disaster. For one thing, the premise looked to be The Lost World except dumber. For another, it all seemed deliberately po-faced and super-serious.
Happily, as the film drew closer, director J.A. Bayona (known to horror fans for spooky Spanish flick The Orphanage, and to everyone else for A Monster Calls) revealed that all earlier marketing material related only to the film’s first act. The scares, he promised, would come. The premise, he assured us, was more complicated and interesting than it first appeared.
To be fair to Bayona, it’s not his fault that the finished product only kind of resembles the dark, thrilling action movie he clearly intended to make. Fallen Kingdom is the product — and product is the operative word here — of an entire team of financiers, studio heads, producers, and plenty of other people who couldn’t give a toss whether the blasted thing makes sense so long as it makes money.
There is still much to enjoy about Fallen Kingdom. The dinos, many of which are animatronics, look more believable than they have since the 1993 original. And, crucially, a couple are pretty bloody scary too — particularly the brand-new Indoraptor with its millions of teeth and colourful back spikes. There are some genuinely tense moments to enjoy here, which couldn’t be said of Jurassic World.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as Owen and Claire respectively, this time tasked with returning to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs that are now at risk of a spontaneously combusting volcano. Except, in reality, they’re being used for nefarious means by a shady corporation led by Rafe Spall, doing his character from What If right after he punches Daniel Radcliffe down that flight of steps.
These Evil Types — one of whom is the great Toby Jones, with a head of fluffy hair, doing a hilariously hammy Donald Trump impression — want to sell the dinosaurs to MAKE MONEY. Well, not if Owen and Claire have anything to say about it. Also, James Cromwell’s granddaughter, who is sort of a modern Lex but, disappointingly, does not announce that she knows any computer systems, is here too.
Fallen Kingdom is silly, that goes without saying. As it hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion, you’ll probably find yourself wondering what the hell it even is, but damn it, it’s a good trip while it lasts. The flick is the definition of a popcorn movie, but it’s also the rare kind with well-judged references to its predecessors that aren’t signposted or stood around and quipped about by ten smug dudes in capes.
The introduction is a nasty, exciting little slice of Jaws-lite fun that also nods to Deep Blue Sea. The big finale, which turns the thing into a haunted house of sorts, includes a reference to Nosferatu. A sequence of claws going through bedding shouldn’t work but really, really does. Ted Levine is here doing his Ted Levine thing and it’s great.
Point being, there’s a lot going on in this movie. Not all of it works (if you’re coming to this to see Jeff Goldblum’s cameo, hinted at in the trailer, well, you’ve already seen it) and there are lulls in the proceedings when it feels like we’ve stumbled into a more boring corner of the Natural History Museum. You know, the smelly part where all the stuffed animals are.
But, when Bayona gets to flex his horror muscles and the dinosaurs take center-stage, Fallen Kingdom is a hell of a lot of fun. Those expecting a plot that makes sense or whose chests swell at the sight of the great British actors taking part (most of whom do American accents) can look elsewhere.
For anyone prepared to defend Deep Blue Sea to the death, and whose step right up. The Indoraptor awaits.
WICKED RATING: (7 / 10)
Director(s): J.A. Bayona
Writer(s): Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ted Levine, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones
Studio/ Production Co: Amblin Entertainment
Length: 128 minutes
Sub-Genre: Adventure, kids’ horror